Bipole’s green light leaves farmers seeing red

The CEC criticized Manitoba Hydro’s environmental assessments and says more consultation is needed with farmers, but it granted the environmental licence

Manitoba’s Clean Environment Commission (CEC) has granted an environment licence for Manitoba Hydro’s Bipole III transmission line, despite issuing a report criticizing the Crown corporation’s lack of consideration for agricultural and environmental concerns.

“I’m extremely disappointed… it’s a sad, sad day for agriculture,” said Karen Friesen, president of the Bipole III Coalition, which represents affected landowners in the southeast part of the province. The organization presented concerns to the CEC during hearings last winter.

“It’s particularly frustrating for me because we’ve worked so hard on explaining to people how this will affect agriculture. But in the end it didn’t matter,” Friesen said.

During the CEC hearings, the coalition presented experts citing concerns about lost productivity, hazards for crop-dusters, sprayers and other farm implements.

Although the CEC report does recommend route changes, including moving some sections to the half-mile line and away from productive land, the coalition said the changes don’t go far enough, nor does it address Hydro’s snubbing of some farmers during the consultation process.

The commission’s report advised Hydro to “consult with all affected farmers to seek consensus or majority support for moving the line from roadsides to the half-mile line.”

But Friesen wonders why the licence was granted given the number of criticisms in the report, and believes political will trumped scientific analysis. The report questions Hydro’s environmental impact statements, alleging more time was spent finding ways to show there would be no impact, than actually assessing the environmental impact of the transmission line.

“The Clean Environment Commission in its report basically said Hydro did a lousy job on its environmental impact statement… it had scathing comments on what a terrible job they had done, but yet they gave them a rubber-stamp,” said Friesen.

Having first put her trust in the CEC process, the coalition president said the group will now look at other options, and hasn’t ruled out legal action.

“This isn’t over yet for landowners, landowners do not have to sign on the dotted line. It will be an individual decision for every farm that is affected and there are a lot of them,” said Friesen, who said she won’t give up her land willingly — it will have to go to expropriation.

She hopes that even delaying the process could help redirect the route away from agricultural land, or allow for new political forces to take hold of the process.

About the author

Reporter

Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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